The UFC will make its return to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for what is setting up to be a great fight night at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday March 30.
The main card is set to kick off on ESPN at 5:00pm MT and will feature a main event where two top lightweight contenders will meet, when dangerous striker Edson Barboza takes on one of the baddest men in all of the UFC in Justin “The highlight” Gaethje. In the co-main event, a top ranked middleweight will look to get back on track as David Branch is set to take on Jack Hermansson.
Here are the staff predictions for UFC Philadelphia.
Sodiq Yusuff vs Sheymon Moraes (Featherweight)
Hiram: I am looking forward to a stand up war in this fight. Both men are looking to make a statement in this fight and show the UFC fans they belong in the big leagues. It seems that both men have some hype around them with Yusuff coming from the the Contender Series and Moraes only have one loss in the UFC to title contender Zabit Magomedsharipov. I expect Moreas to keep his momentum going and find the finish in this fight.
Sheymon Moreas def. Sodiq Yusuff via TKO in round 2.
Connor: Moreas is on a two-fight win streak after dropping his first UFC bout to Zabit Magomedsharipov, who may be in line for a title shot. He has faced tough competition and has faired well so far as he is 2-1 in the UFC and will look to continue to rise in the featherweight division. Look for this to be a standup fight, Moreas much prefers to watch his opponents hit the mat as opposed to taking them there with 5 career wins coming by way of knockout. While Yusuff won his UFC debut by way of knockout in impressive fashion. Yusuff is a product of DWTNCS, and has shown to be exciting with every punch having potential to be the one that ends the fight. This fight is on the main card for a reason, it could be an incredible fight, potential fight of the night candidate.
Sodiq Yusuff def. Sheymon Moreas via KO in round 3.
Jordan: This is an interesting fight to kick off the main card, with neither fighter a household name but both are young and relatively new to the UFC. Moraes boasts a 11-2 record, his only defeats coming against Zabit Magomedsharipov and Marlon Moraes, something you can’t really knock him for. Yusuff on the other hand made his Octagon debut late last year and looked impressive making quick work of TUF 27 quarter finalist Suman Mokhtarian. This certainly represents a step up in competition for Yusuff and one I think he will pass, adding his name to the illustrious list of men to get past Sheymon Moraes.
Sodiq Yusuff def. Sheymon Moraes via TKO in round 2.
Kennedy Nzechukwu vs. Paul Craig (Light Heavyweight)
Hiram: Both men are very talented fighters, Craig does have an advantage on the ground and could dominate there. Both of these men are looking to make a statement and solidify them self as top prospects on the UFC and gain momentum. With eyes being on Nzechukwu because his resume with the Contender Series, I expect him to come out guns blazing. I feel the fight will find its way to the ground eventually and Craig will take advantage to make it an early night.
Paul Craig def. Kennedy Nzechukwu via TKO in round 2.
Connor: Nzechukwu earned a contract in the UFC from DWTNCS, and was one of the only fighters given a contract without a finish. There is definitely potential here and Nzechukwu is also undefeated as a professional. Craig is dangerous on the ground, which has yet to be seen for Nzechukwu. If the fight makes it to the ground, there is a distinct advantage for Craig, but Nzechukwu should get the better of the standing exchanges.
Paul Craig def. Kennedy Nzechukwu via submission in round 1.
Jordan: Paul Craig has had one of the more interesting 5-fight runs in the UFC. With a 2-3 UFC record, you would be forgiven for thinking his UFC future may be on the line in this one, but I highly doubt it. All of Craig’s UFC appearances have finished by either KO or submission, as he becomes a must see for MMA fans who love his grit, determination, and fighting style. He famously pulled out a submission victory to beat the buzzer in a fight that he was certainly losing against Magomed Ankalaev. Kennedy Nzechukwu will be making his UFC debut this weekend, after coming through Dana White’s Contender Series in sensational style. A head kick and follow up earned him a UFC contract. 6-0, 6’5″ tall, he’s going to be a problem for Craig.
Kennedy Nzechukwu def. Paul Craig via TKO in round 1.
Karolina Kowalkiewicz (#6) Vs Michelle Waterson (#9) (Strawweight)
Hiram: This is a very exciting fight for the strawweight division. Both women are at the top of their game, and they are two elite fighters in the division. Kowalkiewicz is looking to get back some momentum and get a win as she is coming of a huge knockout loss to Jessica Andrade, who will be fighting for the title at UFC 237. Before the loss, Kowalkiewicz was on a 2 fight winning streak where she beat both Jody Esquibel and Felice Herrig. With a win over Waterson, it would put Kowalkiewicz right back in the title conversation, and remember she does hold a win over the current champion Rose Namajunas. Waterson on the other hand is looking to keep her momentum going and make it a 3 fight winning streak for her. She is coming off two big wins over Herrig and Cortney Casey. Waterson only has 2 losses in the UFC and those losses are to the current champion Namajunas and top contender Tecia Torres. I expect this to be a stand-up fight and I don’t think Kowalkiewicz will be much stronger, although she is bigger. I feel that Waterson’s speed will be a big factor in her being able to cut angles quicker and land first. If the fight does go to the ground Waterson will have the advantage there as well.
Michelle Waterson def. Karolina Kowalkiewicz via unanimous decision.
Connor: This could be a very exciting matchup between some of the best in the strawweight division. I imagine that Kowalkiewicz will look to keep this fight standing where the fight should be mostly even, and an incredible show as both women are talented strikers with plenty of experience. Waterson will probably look to take the fight to the ground where she should have the advantage with her 9 submission victories to show for it.
Michelle Waterson def. Karolina Kowalkiewicz via submission in round 2.
Jordan: After suffering the worst KO since women joined the UFC, it is going to be interesting to see how Kowalkiewicz bounces back. At this level, there are no easy fights and she certainly hasn’t been granted one for her return as she drew Michelle Waterson. Waterson herself is a top contender in the division as well. Waterson’s daughter has been doing all the promo for this fight, with her bold viral sales pitch to UFC boss Dana White, who bought a truck load of her girl scout cookies. Cute promo aside, Waterson will just be too strong in this matchup I think. It will be a back and forth fight, but I see Waterson dominating the majority and getting it done.
Michelle Waterson def. Karolina Kowalkiewicz via unanimous decision.
Josh Emmet (#10) vs Michael Johnson (Featherweight)
Hiram: A fight that is truly one of the best on this card. Although their rankings might not show it, both of these men are elite fighters. Emmet has always had hype around him, but his position as a top contender came when he brutally knocked out Ricardo Lamas and he is 4-2 since joining the promotion. Emmet’s last loss was to Jeremy Stephens by knockout, which he does that to a lot of people. It has been a year since Emmet has fought and I am pretty sure the heavy hitting featherweight is looking to come back and make a statement after his long layoff. Johnson is a true veteran of the sport, he has been in the UFC since 2011 and has fought some of the best guys in the world. Johnson has also beaten some elite fighters such as Dustin Poirier, Edson Barboza, Gleison Tibau, Tony Ferguson, and Melvin Guillard. He dropped 2 fights in a row at lightweight before dropping to featherweight where he is 2-1. With a win over Emmet, Johnson will finally crack the top 10-15 at 145-pounds for the first time.
Michael Johnson def. Josh Emmet via TKO in round 2.
Connor: Michael Johnson, he has been a part of some incredible fights, but has not always been on the right side. Johnson has some of the fastest hands wherever he fights, as he has been in a few different weight classes. He struggled to find a home as he had some tough fights, like with Justin Gaethje, where he may have been winning the fight against one of the hottest prospects in MMA, but eventually made a mistake that cost him the fight. Emmet will look to show he does belong in the UFC’s elite in the featherweight division and move up in the rankings in what is now a wide-open featherweight division with uncertainty at the top as far as the champ Max Holloway’s plans going forward. This is a big “prove it” fight for both fighters who are currently on the outskirts trying to break their way into title discussion.
Michael Johnson def. Josh Emmet via unanimous decision.
Jordan: In a very similar situation to the previous fight, we will see Josh Emmett try to make a successful return to fighting after a brutal knockout loss. Again, the UFC are not one to grant gimme fight’s and have matched Emmett with one of the bigger punchers in the division. Michael Johnson holds big KO wins over the likes of Dustin Poirier and certainly packs a punch. Johnson’s drop to featherweight hasn’t stopped anyone, as he picked up two decision victories after losing his featherweight debut via submission. Perhaps the weight cut has diminished his power. If so, he could be in for a long night with Emmett who at one point looked like the next top contender at 145-pounds.
Josh Emmett def. Michael Johnson via unanimous decision.
David Branch (#11) vs Jack Hermansson (Middleweight)
Hiram: There is a lot at stake for middleweight contender David Branch who is looking to get back to his winning ways. For the fans who are not familiar with Branch, he is the former World Series of Fighting middleweight and light heavyweight champion, an organization that is now called Professional Fight League (PFL). Branch has always had high expectations for himself to do well in the UFC. He is 2-2 since rejoining the UFC in 2017, dropping fights to Luke RockHold and Jarred Cannonier. Hermansson is a good up-and-coming fighter and will not be an easy match up for Branch. I do feel at some point, Branch will take over because his experience and level of competition will give him the advantage in this fight.
David Branch def. Jack Hermansson via unanimous decision.
Connor: Branch has had some up and down moments since rejoining the UFC, but one thing to note is that he has a victory over Thiago Santos, perhaps one of the most dangerous KO artists in the UFC and is in line for a title shot at light heavyweight. Hermansson lost to Santos, but that is nothing to be ashamed of as he is a talented fighter looking to push his way into the top 15 and has shown he can finish fights in different ways with 12 wins by way of TKO/KO, and 6 wins by way of submission.
David Branch def. Jack Hermansson via TKO in round 2.
Jordan: This one has fight of the night written all over it. For as long as it lasts, these two men will produce a fun fight that will certainly get the crowd going. Coming into the UFC a two-weight world champion with WSOF, Branch has every right to be disappointed with his transition to the big show. Going 2-2, with defeats to Luke Rockhold and Jared Cannonier, Branch hasn’t looked the elite level fighter many thought he may be coming from other promotions. Branch has a win over light heavyweight contender Thiago Santos which is a stand out win in his run in the UFC. If he can replicate that form, he may still become what many had hoped. Jack Hermansson is simply a fun fighter. He gets in wars, he looks for the finish and is truly a joy to watch. Hermansson can be stopped though, with 4 defeats on his record he has succumbed to KOs and submissions, its up to Branch to force it, as Hermasson won’t lie down and if Branch is anything less than 100%, he could be on the receiving end of a vicious defeat.
David Branch def. Jack Hermansson via TKO in round 3.
Edson Barboza (#6) vs Justin Gaethje (#7) (Lightweight)
Hiram: This is such a well-matched fight, I expect both Barboza and Gaethje to march forward and not take any steps back. Both of these men are well known for their high striking output, and both men are known for getting violent finishes on the feet and is sure to be a treat for the fans. Although both men are powerful strikers, Gaethje has the better cardio, and Barboza tends to throw every strike with intentions of ending the fight. While that style is exciting, that style also uses a lot of energy and is hard to maintain. Barboza always seems to gas at the end of the second and third round. Gaethje does not get tired, he gets stronger as the fight goes on and I expect Barboza to have success in the opening rounds. But if he does not take out Gaethje early, I feel Gaethje will rally late and finish strong or finish Barboza.
Justin Gaethje def. Edson Barboza via TKO in round 4.
Connor: So, you say you like knockouts? Look no further, this could be a fight of the year candidate. Barboza and Gaethje are both highlight knockouts waiting to hit the replay board. Gaethje has shown, perhaps a little too much, that he as a chin and is willing to take a punch to land a punch. That may not be the best idea when facing Barboza, but it usually is not a great idea for people to let Gaethje hit them either. Either fighter could end the fight in an instant, but I think Barboza digs to the body of Gaethje.
Edson Barboza def. Justin Gaethje via TKO in round 3.
Jordan: This fight pretty much embodies everything MMA fans love to see. On paper we should get two of the worlds most violent men kicking each other into submission, literally. Edson Barboza is one of the scariest dudes on the UFC roster. Highlight reel KO’s are his thing, stand to long with him and expect a piece of his foot to come and rearrange your face. Justin Gaethje on the other hand seems to believe a granite chin is the only defense he needs.
Barboza is a well-known commodity by this point. He’s going to keep it standing, look for flashy head strikes while he continuously rattles your lower body with kicks, ultimately lining up that perfect shot and getting his man out of there. Gaethje on the other hand has a more varied game, it is just a question of will we ever get to see it. A high-level wrestler, Gaethje could make an easy night’s work of this one by simply using his wrestling to dominate Barboza on the mat, as we have seen him exposed in this way before. It seems like a certainty, but for fans who know Gaethje, they know this is an unlikely scenario. He simply loves a war. Having come out on the losing end of a couple in UFC, maybe now is the time he decides to use his fight IQ and get this one done in the least painful way possible. A true 50/50 as UFC main events should be. This is going to be epic.
Justin Gaethje def. Edson Barbosa via TKO in round 4.